By The Weekly Vision Team
If the events of ODM leader Raila Odinga’s recent tour of the coast region are anything to go by, then President Ruto’s UDA party in the region needs to go back to the drawing board to counter his growing influence in the region. The region has in the last four elections voted overwhelmingly for Mr. Odinga, and by conducting his party’s recruitment drive there at the moment, it clearly shows his intentions to continue exerting his influence in the region.
Going by the last presidential election results, in Mombasa, Raila Odinga got 58% of the presidential votes, while President Ruto got 41%. In Kwale County, Raila got 70%, while Ruto got 21% of the presidential votes. In Kilifi County, Raila got 71% while Ruto got 27%; in Tana River, Raila got 54% compared to Ruto’s 44%; in Lamu, Raila got 54% as compared to Ruto’s 45%; and in Taita Taveta, Raila got 72% while Ruto got 26%.
Going by the above statistics, Mr Odinga continues to enjoy support in the coastal region. Last week’s decision by ODM to conduct recruitment drives in the entire region has sent the UDA coast region kingpins into panic mode. Aware that the UDA coast region is sharply divided, ODM moved with speed to ensure they reap big from the fallout among the coast leaders allied to President William Ruto. The defection of former Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko from the Kalonzo Musyoka-led Wiper Party to the UDA failed to achieve the intended purpose after he was denied participation in last year’s gubernatorial elections.
According to top UDA officials who had convinced Sonko to join their team, he was to use his political influence to woo coastal voters, specifically those in Mombasa County, to join the UDA bandwagon; however, his campaigns did not achieve much.
Mr Sonko had teamed up with Hassan Omar for the Mombasa gubernatorial seat against ODM’s Abdulsumwad Nassir, but the ODM wave in Mombasa County was too strong for them. Nyali MP Mohammed Ali and UDA Mombasa gubernatorial candidate Hassan Omar, who is also the UDA’s vice chair, fell out during the campaigns. Sources revealed that Ali was secretly campaigning for Nassir in a revenge game to punish Omar, who was also allegedly campaigning against him in Nyali. Those who keenly followed the politics of Mombasa County divulged that Hassan supported the ODM candidate against Ali in Nyali, while Ali also supported Nassir against Omar. At the end of it, Ali won while Omar was trounced.
The big fallout in the Coast UDA leadership is yet to be resolved as Ali continues to blame Omar for mismanaging the party’s campaign funds. Ali has publicly declared that, come 2027, he will be the UDA candidate for the Mombasa gubernatorial seat. The power game between these two political heavyweights in the region is playing out to the advantage of ODM, which has moved with speed to benefit from the fallout.
If the figures announced by ODM during the recent recruitment drive are anything to believe, then it will be a toll order for the UDA to wrestle the region from Raila’s political grip. In one constituency with 60,000 registered voters, 48,000 had registered as ODM members. These figures should be sending a strong political message to President Ruto and UDA.
Speculations are also rife that, should Sonko be cleared to run in 2027, he is most likely to make a political comeback in Nairobi County politics to run as a gubernatorial candidate.
Analysts say last week’s endorsement of the Mombasa governor by Raila Odinga as the region’s kingpin has sent his political opponents panicking. The endorsement has now put him in an advantageous position to successfully defend his seat in 2027. Mr Sonko, being a shrewd politician, is said to have seen Nairobi as a soft landing spot in 2027 as compared to Mombasa. However, which political party’s ticket he will run on is still unknown. But rumours are that should Azimio nominate Kalonzo as the presidential flag bearer, he will jump ship and join the Kalonzo bandwagon.
However, even if he has to jump ship and join Wiper, his chances of clinching the gubernatorial ticket under Azimio might be very slim considering that Raila Odinga has already endorsed Westlands MP Tim Wanyonyi as his preferred gubernatorial candidate. What is not known is whether President Ruto will reconcile Ali, Sonko, and Omar, considering that they have fallen out. At one time, Ali alleged that money issued as an empowerment kitty was meant for the 2022 campaign that he stashed, causing the UDA party to lose seats in Mombasa. Out of the 30 MCA seats in Mombasa, UDA managed only four, with Ali becoming the only UDA MP in Mombasa out of the six constituencies.
During the 2022 elections, Ali (UDA) garnered 32,933 votes, while his closest rival, Said Abdallah of ODM, got 18,642 votes. To show how various political players in Mombasa County betrayed their party’s candidates to campaign for their rivals, while in Nyali, Ali got 32,933 votes, his presidential candidate Ruto got a paltry 23,519 votes. It means 9,414 voters voted for Ali but cast their votes for Raila in the presidential race.
Again, the ODM candidate for Nyali got 18,642 votes, while Raila garnered 31,600 votes in Nyali. Again, what this means is that 12,958 ODM supporters voted for Raila but not for Said Abdalla. The poor performance by UDA has also put Sonko in a very awkward political position after he failed to deliver seats to the party as was highly anticipated. Analysts now say that Mombasa voters rejected Sonko and the UDA candidates, and that, according to pundits, this could be the reason why Sonko is contemplating returning to his political bedrock of Nairobi.
Sonko is also said to have considered going back to Nairobi following Nassir’s overwhelming defeat against Omar, despite all the resources he used to campaign for Omar and the millions Ruto spent in Mombasa campaigning for Omar. At the end of it, Nassir garnered 119,083 votes against his closest rival, Omar of UDA, with 98,105 votes. What this means, therefore, is that Raila received more votes from Mombasa County (161,015) than Nassir, who got 119,083, while Ruto also received more votes (113,700) as compared to Omar’s 98,105.